Local action groups hosted a a community conversation at the Croquet Club in Musgrave Park on Tuesday afternoon, 22 August, to share their experiences of floods and fires.

We are in the climate emergency, and weather extremes impact all our communities, but our systems are not up to the challenge. Ongoing community advocacy is a must if we want improved emergency response systems and real action to reduce our climate impacts.

The conversation covered planning for the needs of people living with disabilities, climate action in response to bushfires, and planning tools for apartment buildings at risk of flood.

Uncle Willie Prince, an Aboriginal man of Kalkatungu heritage born on the Aboriginal mission at Cherbourg, provided the acknowledgement of country.

After a delicious afternoon tea, we moved on to share powerful disaster stories from fire-affected NSW communities of the Blue  Mountains and Tathra and flood-impacted community of South Brisbane.

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action

Headshot of Jo Dodd dressed on greens shirt, wearing glasses, with long dark hard. She is looking into the camera.

 Jo Dodds, a resident of a south-coast town in NSW, told us about the two fires in 2018 that destroyed 65 houses in a town of just 350 people.

She saw red when Federal politicians played down the community outrage, incensed at the government’s response, ‘This is not the time to talk about climate!’

Image of Jo Dodds by BSFCA


The townspeople had a strong record on climate action, but the tragedy of the fires supercharged their advocacy.

So they took the system on: – They won.

Serena Joyner from the Blue Mountains and Jo Dodds formed the Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action and took on the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) arguing that it needed to acknowledge greenhouse gases were pollutants that it needed to regulate, because of the devastating impact climate change was having on communities across Australia.

They took on but lost their objection to Whitehaven’s coal mine expansion in Narrabri.

Out of the devastation of their communities, their focus is on the policies driving the climate crisis. To this end, they spend time with politicians of all persuasions, seeking to spark a race-to-the-top mentality around climate ambition.

Planning to support people living with disability.

Two disability activists spoke next. One shared his story of being evacuated to accommodation unsuited to his needs. Brisbane had just two official evacuation centres, and they were located on the outskirts of Brisbane. This person stayed in two different residential centres closer to Brisbane, but they were not geared to caring for someone with complex mobility needs.

Another disability activist spoke about emergency communications and how they were not geared to his specific disability. He could not read messages, and communication from everyone was not universally accessible. There were problems with emergency arrangements and accessing the facilities he needed.

Both activists advocated for stronger community involvement in the design of comprehensive schemes for emergency preparedness and responses. 

Tool for Apartment Dwellers

Helen Abrahams from Resilient Kurilpa outlined the flood impacts of 2022 on 19 of the 57 apartment buildings on the west side of Montague Road in West End and South Brisbane. Resilient Kurilpa has a flood management plan tool for body corporates to utilise, and the group is keen for more body corporates to opt into proactive flood management and use the tool.

The tool has three dimensions – know your infrastructure, know your flood procedures, and get your people to understand what they need to do. See the website for details: https://www.resilientkurilpa.com/apartment-toolkit.

We listened to these stories of pain and aspiration for greatly improved emergency response procedures for the next disaster event and for the Federal government to take real climate action.

Event organisers: Community Plus, Qld ConservationCouncil, Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, and Resilient Kurilpa.

Cover image by Samuel Hansen.